Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 13, 1955

Salvation By Grace

Robert H. Bunting, Beaufort, South Carolina

Grace means unmerited favor. To be saved by grace is to be saved by the unmerited favor of God. In Ephesians 2:8 Paul says, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God." The first part of the verse tells us God's part of the plan of salvation. Man is saved by the grace of God. It was because of grace that Christ came into the world (John 1:1-17; 3:16). By the grace of God Christ tasted death for every man (Heb. 2:9). The New Testament, which tells us God's plan of salvation, was given through grace (Tit. 2:11, 12; Acts 20:30; Acts 14:3). These facts certainly show salvation comes as a result of grace. However, does grace exclude obedience? To read Ephesians 2:8 again will supply the answer. "For by grace are ye saved through faith. . ." One is saved by grace, yet it is through faith. Here Paul is introducing man's part of the plan of salvation. This same thought is brought out in Romans 5:2. "By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God." One has access into grace by faith, therefore salvation is not by grace alone. The question is, "What kind of faith gives us access to God's grace?" Certainly it is not a dead faith (James 2:20), for this type of faith is spoken of as one that will not save (James 2:24-26). The apostle to the Gentiles informs us the faith that avails is the working faith (Gal. 5:6). If faith is one that will not "worketh by love", it will not give one access into the grace of God. The disobedient faith will fall short of the grace of God.

Someone may object, "Does not Ephesians 2:8 say it is the gift of God? If salvation is the gift of God, would that not exclude all acts of obedience?" No! If salvation being a gift means it is unconditional, one could be saved without faith for faith is a condition. If it is agreed that faith is necessary to salvation, then it must be agreed that obedience to the gospel is necessary for the saving faith is an obedient faith (Gal. 5:6). The fact that salvation is a gift does not exclude the idea of obedience. An illustration of this fact can be seen in the sixth chapter of Joshua. Here we find God telling Joshua, "I have given unto thy hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valor." Jericho was a gift, and this cannot be denied. Did this mean Joshua and Israel had no conditions with which to comply? Every child who has read the account knows there were commands that had to be obeyed before Jericho would be in the hands of Israel. The city had to be compassed for seven days. Israel had to believe and obey to receive the gift. (Hebrews 11:30)

Salvation is a gift, but there are certain acts of obedience one must perform to obtain this gift. Jesus has said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." (Mark 16:16) An objector might say, "If one is baptized he is earning heaven, it is no longer a matter of grace." In answering this we might ask if Joshua earned Jericho in obeying God's commands? Israel's obedience does not destroy the fact that Jericho was a gift. Does one earn heaven because he has obeyed his Lord in baptism? Certainly not, for after one has kept all of God's commands he is still an unprofitable servant and has not earned one inch of heaven. Eternal life is a gift conditioned upon man's obedience. "So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all things which are commanded you, say, we are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do." (Luke 17:11)

In spite of the plain teaching of the scriptures, many contend one is saved separate and apart from obedience. Ephesians 2:9 is often misused by the false teacher to give the impression man can do nothing to be saved. In this verse Paul declares, "Not of works, lest any man should boast." If Paul is condemning all works, he is contradicting himself, for he has stated in Galatians 5:6 that faith must work in order to avail. When one studies the subject of works, he should keep in mind there are different kinds of works and the New Testament condemns some while it commands others. There are at least three kinds of works mentioned in the Bible. There are the works or righteousness of man (Rom 10:1-3), the works of the law (Rom. 3:20), and the works of righteousness of God (Rom. 10:1-3; Psalm 119:172). Man is not saved by the works of the law (Rom. 3:28; Gal. 5:4), and neither is he saved by his own works of merit (Tit. 3:5). These are the works Paul has in mind in Ephesians 2:9. This is evident in the fact that man can "boast" of the works condemned in Ephesians 2. Nevertheless, there are works man must do in order to be saved. In the first sermon to the Gentiles Peter declares, "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him." (Acts 10:34, 35) What is the righteousness man must work to be acceptable to God? The answer to the question is found in Psalm 119:172. "And all thy commandments are righteousness." To work righteousness is to obey God's commands. When a man obeys a command of God, he is doing a work of God. Take belief for an example. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ" is a command. Yet, belief is spoken of as a work. Jesus says, "This is the work of God, that ye believe on him that he hath sent." (John 6:29) When a man believes, he is doing a work of God. This is true of all of God's commands. When one obeys the commands of God, he is working righteousness.

The subject of salvation by grace could well be illustrated by the salvation of Noah and his house. This patriarch was saved by grace (Gen. 6:8). However, Noah was not saved by grace alone, for Hebrews 11:7 tells us of his faith. In the case of Noah, did grace exclude acts of obedience? On the contrary, for the record tells us, "By faith Noah . . . prepared an ark to the saving of his house. . ." Would Noah have been saved by grace if he would have refused to obey God? Did his building of the ark (his obedience to God) exclude grace? Anyone familiar with the word of God should be able to see the fact that obedience was necessary for the salvation of Noah. It was an obedient faith that gave Noah access to the grace of God.

Friend, you can be saved by the grace of God, if you are willing to submit your will to that of Christ. In laying down the conditions of salvation Jesus said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." (Mark 16:16) Have you obeyed Christ, or are you trying to get to heaven on your own works of merit?